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Geneva Varga

∆ The documentation of my life work as an artist & naturalist ∆

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Science

Discovering Seaweed Art

Early Saturday morning, my mother and I drove down to Charleston, Oregon to attend a class at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB). The class we were taking? Seaweed Art, which is the process of pressing seaweed or algae. With a diverse selection, the options are endless. There are three main colors that appear in algae: green, brown, and red.
Coos Bay

The instructors started out by distributing plastic bags that we could use to collect our own specimens. We had two options from where we would collect, either from the dock or, for a greater diversity, along the pier, a short walk down the road.

Mom and I chose to take the walk down to the pier. We were lucky to be out during low tide, abling us to go down closer to where larger specimens would be discovered. We found several baby Bull Kelp, which our teacher later informed us was a great find as they look lovely after being pressed.

 

We returned to the lab shortly after collecting our algae specimens. We placed our collections in an aluminum container with salt water so that they may spread out, allowing us to see what we had found. This is when one of the instructors gave us a short talk, What is Algae?

One of our greater misconceptions about the world is that all Oxygen is produced by plants, but actually 35% is created by Algae. The other 65%? 35% from Cyanobacteria and 30% from Land Plants. Interesting enough, Algae is not actually a plant as they lack vascular tissue, roots, flowers, and seeds. The way they reproduce is more similar to ferns – via spores.

 

Algae are Incredible 

Algae is the fastest growing organism on the planet; Bull Kelp can grow up to two feet daily. They have great symbiotic relationships between fungi and sloths. Who knew?

Fungi and Algae can live separately but can survive together in a much more diverse range of climate. Have you ever gone up to where snow is and seen a red substance on the snow? Most think that it was rust run-off (I did!) yet actually, it is Lichen. A clever phrase that always helps you remember this symbiotic relationship is, Freddie Fungi and Alex Algae took a Lichen to each other.

Sloths actually encourage algae to grow in their hair. This is helpful towards the sloths in that Algae provide camouflage and are more nutrient rich than the plants that sloths otherwise consume.

Algae is a great food source. Japan has long known this. Nori, a type of seaweed, is used in Sushi. On the Oregon Coast, we have a relative to Nori that grows. While Western Culture is still getting used to the idea of Seaweed being a great food source, Japan and China are still the largest consumers. On the Oregon Coast, there are no poisonous species so give it a try.

Pressing

After the short lecture, the instructors showed us how to press the seaweed samples we’d brought back to the lab. Essentially, you layer a series of different materials in this order: cardboard, blotting paper, herbarium paper, your algae specimen, cotton fabric, blotting paper, and cardboard. We were also informed that you could use any thick type of paper, such as watercolor paper if you are unable to obtain herbarium paper.

Mom and I both did three of them each, yet we had enough algae to do several more only the class ran out of cardboard. The only tricky part that I found, was selecting how you wanted the algae to be arranged in the final product.

When we had completed all of the pressings, one of the instructors wrote down everyone’s contact information to inform all the participants the time final products could be picked up after drying. The drying process should take about two weeks, but some of the works might be held back longer as they wished to put some up on display at the South Slough Visitor Center.

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Peggy Guggenheim – A Study into a Life

Peggy Guggenheim was born in the rented rooms of Hotel Majestic on East 69th Street, on the 26th of August 1898. Her sister Benita born three years prior to Peggy. Her parents originally named her Marguerite. In her time it was typical for a women of high standards to be married off to another wealthy family. Peggy was destined to escape such formalities.

Peggy’s family had substantially grown in wealth by the time world War I had broken out. Her farther Benjamin Guggenheim and his brother owned nearly 80% of the world’s Silver, Copper, and Lead. Constantly fighting it out between other mining companies backed by the Rockefeller and others extremely wealthy families, Benjamin lost interest. Drawing away completely in an unofficial retirement in 1901. He still managed to gain an income $250,000 a year from stock market ownership.

Florette Guggenheim maiden name Seligman was a mother of three including Peggy. She had an odd habit of repeating things three times. In one instance she was ordering a hat and had asked for a feather to be added onto the thing, but instead received three on top. As she had said “Add a feather, a feather, a feather.” To say the least, an interesting character.

“My childhood was excessively unhappy.”

— Peggy Guggenheim

Most of Peggy’s childhood was spent in the mansions of Fifth Avenue in New York City. She and her two sisters had the entire 4th floor to themselves. At age 4 Peggy and her elder sister Benita were painted by Franz von Lenbach who depicted Peggy unlike her true self. With brown eyes instead of her beautiful green and red hair instead of chestnut. For Benita on the other hand he was less fanciful.

With Florette and the girls (Benita, Peggy, and Hazel) living in New York City. Benjamin and his mistress spent most of their time in Paris, France. As result he hardly ever saw his children. Though one time when he was traveling back the America for his daughter Hazel’s Birthday, the ship he had booked in advance was unavailable when the day came to sail as the crew was on strike. In a rush, Benjamin boarded the Titanic. He did not survive the tragedy, but is has been reported that his mistress lived to tell the tale.

It was at this time that Peggy’s life changed profoundly. Her mother quickly became reluctant to travel by ship. Soon Peggy was going to public school for the first time, having only been private tutored her entire life.

Her first job was as a clerk in an avant-garde bookstore. From here Peggy’s interest in art started and then expanded. In 1920 Peggy visited Paris and was quickly introduced to a variety of avant-garde writers and artists including Marcel Durchamp and Constatin Brâncuși whose art she later featured. It was the year 1922 when Peggy met her first husband Laurence Vail.

Laurence was an avant-garde writer and artist who wrote an entire book called “Murder! Murder!” about Peggy Guggenheim. Peggy had several affairs even while married to Vail including Max Ernst another artist she would feature. Peggy officially left Laurence Vail for John Holmes in 1928. The two continued to stay in contact and be friends even after the divorce.

Tragically John Holmes died young in 1938. A year later World War II broke out. Peggy promptly proclaims that it is her duty to protect the art of her time and began purchasing numerous pieces of art while a friend stored them away safely in a barn house.

For Peggy a painting a day keeps the doctor away. In fact she nearly purchased a piece everyday, quickly amassing a large collection. The day that Hitler invaded Norway Peggy purchased “Men in the City” by the french artist Fernand Lěger.

Peggy assisted Varian Fry in providing artists with the means of escaping the Ghettos. Buying several safe passages for close friends including Max Ernst. Many artists in gratitude gave several of their works to her.

After the bloody battles and the war had been settled Peggy Guggenheim showed her collection of art for the first time in 1927 with Venice Biennle (an art organisation).

She was the first to discover Jackson Pollock and his magnificent works. Pollock originally worked at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and had seen a showing of Pablo Piscasso which had originally inspired his artistic style. His first showing took place in in Italy the year being 1950.

Settling down in Venice, Italy Peggy continues to purchase works from artists for the rest of her life. Om 23rd of December 1979, Peggy passed into the after life. Her home in Venice became one of the most important art museum in Italy where her personal collection is showed.

Being a socialite Peggy lived life to the fullest. Her ashes are placed in a corner of the garden in Palzazzo Venier dei Leoni next to where she customarily buried her dogs.

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